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Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

Houston, TX
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58 posts
106 reviews
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Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

I write this while we are still in Barcelona because while I feel I was well prepared by TripAdvisor's contributors about the pickpocketers in Barcelona, I am truly appalled about how rampant it is and how it seems they target just the tourists. My husband and I travel extensively in the US and Europe. I grew up in NY, commuting and working in New York City as a young woman so am very "aware" and streetsmart. While we do take precautions, (I carry valuables on my body and don't carry a purse...my husband carries his wallet in his front pocket and keeps his hand on it) we have never had problems. Until Barcelona. We arrived on Wed with the family. Thursday I caught a pickpocketer sliding her hand into my son-in-law's camera case at the Magic Fountain. I yelled and chased her and her partner away. Friday my husband caught a pickpocketer reaching for his wallet while we were exiting the Metro during the day. My husband made a scene and they left. But last night, Saturday, was the worst. My husband and college son went "partying" on the Ramblas. Since they didn't have watches and there are hardly any clocks visible in Barcelona, my husband didn't realize it was 3 am. He got close to a dark alley and was robbed of his cash at knifepoint. He still had his wallet and began to walk back to the apartment we rented because he now didn't have cash for a taxi. On his walk home, 3 pickpocketers started harassing him. Two would slap at him while the third kept trying to grab his wallet while he was protecting himself. Finally my husband was able to punch one of them and they left. And this is at the Ramblas on a Saturday night with tons of people still out at that hour and no one helped him.

Barcelona is such a beautiful city with so many wonderful things to do but the crime against tourists is way too high for us to return. Our flight doesn't leave till Tue but we just want to get out of here now. Why I say they target tourists is that you watch all these local people, girls have purses that are wide open, guys have these "purses" that strap across their bodies but the "purse" part is on their backs. If anyone is an easy pick it would be these local people but they don't get bothered.

I knew to be "aware" when I came to Barcelona, didn't know I had to be on guard.

VPS
Vilanova i la Geltru
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1. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

I'm so sorry for your dreadful experience. Please, please report this incidence to the police and please write to the Mayor of Barcelona and to central government. This is the only way that change can be made.

These crimes are instigated by a small minority of people and believe it or not local people are also targeted.

I can understand your feelings about wanting to leave Barcelona having been so violated, I would feel the same. May I suggest that you hop on a train and get out the city to somwehere like Vilanova i la Geltru or Sitges and try to salvage a little of your holiday in a less hostile environment. Vilanova in particular has a lovely beach and restaurants with a laid back family feel. It only takes 40 minutes on the train.

Best wishes and hvae a good journey home

Yvette

Houston, TX
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58 posts
106 reviews
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2. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

My husband DID go to the police station today...was sent to the main station where there was an interpreter. The interpreter spoke several languages as there were tourists from all over in the police station reporting their attacks and thefts. My husband said it was packed with tourists...the majority being elderly. Such a shame they go after the weak. But we started out in Sitges where it was very pleasant. I feel Barcelona is very pleasant too. The people are very helpful, weather has been gorgeous. The problem is that these thieves go after tourists in the tourist locations. And they are VERY good at what they do. But why go to Barcelona and not go to the tourist locations? After last night, I liken Barcelona to Harlem in New York City. It is one of those places that it's best to completely avoid, even though they have some fantastic things to see. You can go but have to be on guard at all times.

Police presence has been minimal except for around Placa Catalunya where protesters have camped out. Only one time have we seen a police officer in the Metro.

I am not trying to bash Barcelona, actually think it is a fantastic, well-organized, easy to get around city. Just that any tourists coming here have got to be VERY diligent about protecting themselves and their property....even when you think you are safe, don't let your guard down.

Toronto, Canada
Destination Expert
for Barcelona
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3. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

Hola Wizofwoz!

So sorry to hear of your husband's dreadful experience. I hope that the rest of your visit is enjoyable and safe.

Barcelona, Spain
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for Barcelona, Berlin
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4. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

Tourists have far more cash on them than most locals would carry, that's the main reason why tourists are targetted.

But I diagree that most local women walk round with their purses/handbags open; I would say most of us have them bandolier-style across our bodies. It's true I do sometimes have a small backpack (Quechua brand from Decathlon, bought here) but it never has anything valuable in it.

Btw a German friend had her handbag stolen from under a table in Sitges so it's not perfect there either.

Houston, TX
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5. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

That is true about the cash. Because you don't know which places will not accept credit cards. For example, I was surprised that the Sagrada Familia only accepted cash. Taxis only take cash. In order to pay for a family of six, we ARE carrying alot of cash. We've done that in other European countries and just never had such issues as we did in Barcelona. Take away that issue and Barcelona is one of the cleanest, funnest places to vacation. I have only wonderful things to say about the apartment we rented, about the people we've met, about the clean, fast, efficient metro system, about the fabulous weather, about the great food. When I'm on vacation, I just prefer not to be on guard every time I venture outside. My husband and I just have felt "what a shame" that this is an issue in such an otherwise fantastic city.

Los Angeles
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6. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

I was in Barcelona two weeks ago and stayaed at the W Hotel. While sipping on drinks at the bar inside the hotel, I overheard two ladies say their purses were taken from the boardwalk area.

Why any lady would walk with their purse on the boardwalk just throws blows me away.

But, I was saddened by their stories. While I was in Barcelona I didn't encounter no picketpocketers, but i'm a very built guy.

I always kept my credit card in my left sock and approx 200 Euros in my right sock. When I needed money i just lifted up my pants, pulled down my socks and gave them my sweaty, smelly, stained Euros.

I never carried a wallet.

Singapore, Singapore
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7. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

Barcelona is famous for its sunny weather, street performers, La Rambla, Sagrada Familia, Gaudi, Barcelona FC and food. The city not only attracts many tourists worldwide, but sad to say, also many unscrupulous, unsavoury and thuggish characters. I thought it would be good to share my experiences with fellow travellers.

Although my dad and I were in Barcelona for only three days, we've been easy targets for able-bodied men (who could have worked just like everyone else for a living) on two separate incidents. We have never experienced such high crime-rates even though we've travelled to more than 15 different countries.

1) Three muscular thugs 'helped' my dad and his heavy luggage into a train carriage in front of staring train commuters. One man blocked the train door from closing, while the two hemmed in my dad and pickpocketed him. His waist pouch zip was opened. They were unsuccessful as he did not have much with him. They left the train before the train doors closed.

Lessons learnt:

a) Do not wait at the first and last carriages where thugs can make their escape easily

b) Do not gather with big crowds waiting for the train door to open

c) Be wary of groups of muscular men near you.

2) We were at the Agbar Tower (colourful building) at dusk, waiting to take pictures. One man came, asking me to help him take photos. He continued to be friendly, asking many questions. After taking, two men would approach immediately, claiming they are policemen and suspecting that we were exchanging counterfeit money. They ask to check for my passport and wants to check my money. After sniffing and twitching the money, they returned it to me (or so it seems). Asked for their ID, but since I could not recognise the real police ID, I cooperated. Next day, I found that I had lost about 900 euros from my chest wallet, since the last time the 'policemen' checked my money. Later realised that the three people were a syndicate. Bogus policemen. Made a police report.

Lessons learnt:

a) Plenty of bogus 'policemen', using various distraction tactics

b) Stay away from too remote areas

c) Remember their faces in case you need to do a photo-fit for the police

d) Bring less cash

e) People who look like tourists (Chinese, people taking photos) are especially vulnerable.

BARCELONA IS STILL AN INTERESTING PLACE TO VISIT, BUT JUST BE VERY CAREFUL!

Edited: 27 June 2011, 07:06
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8. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

Another thing to learn is not to wear a waist pouch. Even if nothing valuable is inside it makes one an easy target. Instead wear a money belt which is worn inside the clothing.

Barcelona
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9. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

About the police incident I will add another "lesson learnt":

f) If a policeman asks to see your money, it is NOT a policeman. And if you haven't done anything and they approach you with some story like the counterfeit money, more than probably is NOT a policeman.

VPS
Vilanova i la Geltru
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1,558 posts
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10. Re: Thieves seem to target tourists in Barcelona

Just say no and insist on going to the police station. I used to do this in Kenya when being asked for a bribe for some jumped up traffic offence. It works a treat.

Ikao - 900 euros!!! what on earth are you carrying that amount of money around for?